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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Peter Dent’s Private Utopias

Peter Dent’s Private Utopias

Peter Dent’s Private Utopias: or ‘Noises in the Head’ (Oystercatcher Press 2013) contains utterances that are to be relished as poetic artifacts that reverberate with flamboyant first person narratives and odd distillations of life falling between public and private familiarity. Here are pinpricks along a number of discourses that probe viewpoints and show the weave in and out of a number of binary oppositions. It is the suggested otherness, the private utopia, which works in balance with an implicit probing that lifts the poems off. Words and phrases from distinct discourses intermingle with colloquialisms and clichés. Significantly, they are not juxtaposed and thus the reader is often confronted with a sequence of linked lines where public and private coalesce. There may be slippages, as the back cover blurb suggests, but they are unitary slippages inherent to the narrative.


You may well ask ‘why’ but they couldn’t possibly say   so


heads it’s a tailspin tails it’s a guaranteed loss leader   who

read the outcome should have voiced their concern at the

time  for two pins I’d swap our current preoccupation with


fixing outcomes for a decent walk – any walk – in the hills

if that means being in two minds well so be it   I’m not a


It is wonderfully rich and open poetry, adopting Robert Creeley’s maxim to have more than one event per line. Dent regularly offers one and a half events per line that make the poems zip along in an unpredictable but lucid manner. It is possible to approach the poems with different reading strategies that offer ways toward an immensely satisfying journey. It is Dent’s great achievement that they are both settled and unsettling.


I could be a gift to an implant manufacturer  one creating


private utopias but it’s late in the day   curiosity about the

instruments of Java and Bali combines with the howling of a

pack of wolves to restore hope in a world more dangerous



David Caddy






Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry

Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry

Edited by Ian Hamilton & Jeremy Noel-Tod


Last week I put a few words on the UK Poetry List about this new edition of a very useful book and I make no apology for repeating them here:


  • Some inclusions are very welcome indeed such as Laurie Duggan, William Fuller, Lynette Roberts (amongst many, many others) and some updating is extremely sharp as with reference to J.H. Prynne’s Kazoo Dreamboats and Ben Watson’s Blake in Cambridge.


  • Some exclusions are a pity and I miss seeing Kelvin Corcoran, John Hall and Ian Patterson. The exclusion of Anthony Barnett is rather more bizarre given his Collected Poems of 1987 (recently updated and enlarged) as well as his important role in the field of poetry publication including the first collection of Prynne as well as that of Douglas Oliver and Andrew Crozier. His Allardyce, Barnett editions of modern poets also included the first collected poems and translations of Veronica Forrest-Thomson, an important volume which pre-dates the one mentioned in the V.F-T. entry.


  • Some updates needed a touch more overseeing from the central control tower and I wonder how many errors may lurk within the 700 pages. Notably: the entry for Henry Treece is simply incorrect in that it says that ‘There is a selection and discussion of Treece’s verse by Andrew Crozier in Conductors of Chaos’ No, there isn’t! I suspect that Crozier would have been very happy to provide one if he had been asked.


  • However, when all is said and done it is an important book with a wealth of information and it will, I suspect, remain the best of its encyclopaedic type for some years to come. I look forward to reading it more closely.

Well done J N-T.


Since then I have been assured by the editor (the living one!) that the Crozier/Treece blip will be corrected before the paperback edition appears. Whilst my curiosity remains over the exclusion of Barnett I have now a much greater overview of the whole project and can see how valuable it is going to be to those whose awareness of contemporary poetry is limited to the bookshelves of Waterstones or the catalogues put out by Faber & Faber. I recall from my own teaching days that all reading lists are, to a certain extent, an indicator of the individual interests of the lists’ compilers. This doesn’t mean that there is no accepted corpus, comment upon which must be visible, but that the lesser known areas of focus represent the interests of the person who created the list. Jeremy Noel-Tod’s task is a very unenviable one in that this volume carries with it a weight of imprimatur: it is published by Oxford University Press. The task is also unenviable because it will always make some poets unhappy when they discover that they don’t appear. I think that the overall scope of what the new editor has tried to do is admirable and, having said that, I now feel liberated to name a few rejoicings and regrets:


Terrific to see Roger Langley, Peter Larkin and Tony Lopez there; shame that there isn’t an entry for Nicholas Johnson, poet and founder of Etruscan Books. Delighted to see Gig Ryan in (look out for the review Laurie Duggan has written for Tears 58); pity there wasn’t room for Tim Longville and more on Grosseteste Press. Absolutely right to see Andrea Brady, Sean Bonney and Keston Sutherland; pity not to see Peter Hughes.


Top prize goes to Neil Pattison, Reitha Pattison and Luke Roberts for getting a mention for their Certain Prose of The English Intelligencer, published by Mountain Press last year. This small Poetry Press has produced some distinguished writing (including recent work by Danny Hayward) and I cannot be alone in hoping that there may be a follow-up to the Intelligencer volume.


Ian Brinton





Andrew Crozier’s Thrills and Frills

Andrew Crozier’s Thrills and Frills

Andrew Crozier’s Thrills and Frills: Selected Prose edited by Ian Brinton (Shearsman Books 2013), companion volume to An Andrew Crozier Reader (Carcanet Press 2012), assembles more of the poet’s uncollected essays that centre on close readings of poetry. Although I never heard Crozier lecture, I know that his Doctoral students at Sussex University testified to his outstanding rigour and exactitude. This quality of attention to detail is abundant through the collection, which is divided into two parts and has an introduction by the editor, Ian Brinton.


The British part, for example, contains the famous essay where he tracks down the real author of a paper attributed to Basil Bunting. It also includes reviews of H.D., Chris Torrance, Peter Riley and Tony Lopez, critical essays on John Riley, Donald Davie and the fate of Modernism, introductions to Andrew Marvell and Alexander Pope, a pioneering essay on The New Apocalypse and 1940s poetry, the introduction to the A Various Art (1987) anthology, and obituaries for Douglas Oliver and Barry MacSweeney. The fate of Modernism essay is a work of retrieval for the variety of poetries that appeared in what we now call Neo-Romanticism, the complexities and variety of which continues to unfold, and were excised by the Movement, and its successors, in the Fifties and Sixties. The essay serves as an outline for a book that was initially rejected by Cambridge University Press in 1992 on the grounds that they could not find anyone sufficiently knowledgeable to give them an informed evaluation of the proposal. His proposal was revised and accepted in 1995, after an independent advocate was found, but the book remained unwritten. Crozier died not long after retiring from teaching in 2008. His archive is now at the University of Cambridge.


The magisterial quality of his criticism can be seen in his review of David Shapiro’s study of John Ashbery and elegant summary of both critical work and poet in two pages of tight analysis. Crozier’s work in American poetry, which forms the second part of this book, centres on the importance of the young Pound, The Objectivists and contains essays on Carl Rakosi and Louis Zukofsky. His work on George Oppen appeared in the Reader. His literary detective work, similar to Jim Burns in openness to forgotten poets and materials, also includes an essay on Harry Roskolenko, a self-educated Trotskyist, whose work appears to have been a hybrid of American Objectivism and British New Apocalypse, and first appeared in Australia in the Forties. Such a discovery confirms the extent of transatlantic exchange between poets and magazines in the Thirties and runs counter to official poetic histories of the period. The importance of such essays in producing more accurate accounts of the past is undeniable.


David Caddy




Pamphlet Revival: Ag and Au

Pamphlet Revival: Ag and Au

Poetry pamphlet publishers are filling the gap of more staid and conservative publishers by publishing sequences and more often.   Pamphlets are having a revival. They continue to be as relevant to the emergence of new work, especially sequences and work in progress as they were thirty or forty years ago. They serve as interim reports, markers of what is new and emerging from the pit face. Oystercatcher Press, Happenstance Press, Corrupt Press, Like This Press and several others have helped to revitalize the pamphlet-publishing scene. They appear to be far more effective than e-pamphlets and have the advantages of mobility and samizdat alterity.


Charles Wilkinson’s poetry pamphlet Ag & Au (Flarestack Poets 2013), illustrated by Birmingham Institute of Art & Design students, explores the history of Birminghams’s Jewellery Quarter and the qualities of silver (Ag) and gold (Au). ‘The Golden Triangle’ has flourished since the nineteenth century and occasions this wonderfully atmospheric, spare and balanced sequence. Wilkinson employs found materials and his own archival research into the location, jeweller’s craft and individual craftsmen, to add depth and texture to his poems. Wilkinson welds a specific vocabulary, imbedded in a distinctly localized, social and economic history, and overlays with tight musicality.


opening the shutters

to let in the tall morn-

ing, pace it out, & smile

as if recording, though

an instant & it’s done;

take out My Lady’s Tray:

the same gravitas, open-

ing the door; sir-hiss o

how many times a day – His

Lordship always out, he’s

          by the herringbone stream,

sir: soft sound goes deeper,


Ur and the silver on

the sideboard black white, chang-



These visually attractive poems sparkle with ballads, gems, jeweller’s boxes, bells, lemel bricks, fool’s silver, seasilver and are vitalised by reference to the world of service, child labour, trade disputes and cuffs of light.


David Caddy

‘an intuition of the particular’ Peter Hughes

‘an intuition of the particular’ Peter Hughes

‘An intuition of the particular’: some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes (Shearsman Books 2013), the companion volume to his Selected Poems, (Shearsman 2013), illuminates and excites the reader through close textual readings. Hughes is a poet, painter, musician and publisher of the award-winning Oystercatcher Press. He is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and accomplished poets currently working in England. His recent work translating Petrarch’s sonnets into the landscape of the Norfolk coast being both impressive and popular. This volume is a perceptive and useful accompaniment to his poetry.

Behoven 16

he would stalk

the winter quarters

of the circus

glaring at bears

The essays, edited by Ian Brinton, feature in an informative interview with John Welch, who also writes about publishing Hughes early collections. There are essays by Peter Riley on The Metro Poems, Derek Slade on three poems from Blueroads, John Hall on Behoven, Andrew Bailey on The Summer of Agios Dimitrios and Simon Howard on the Petrarch sonnets that significantly mark the range of Hughes’ output. David Kennedy and Simon Marsh offer insights into the ways that artists and musicians, such as Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Art Pepper, Keith Tippett, Beethoven and others have fuelled and shaped poetic sequences and collaborations. Nigel Wheale offers a reader’s response to the experience of reading Hughes over time. Gene Tanta writes on why poetic collaboration matters, Riccardo Duranti contextualises Hughes’ Italian poetic connections, and Ian MacMillan writes about Oystercatcher Press. Ian Brinton’s introductory essay highlights Hughes ability ‘to condense the universal into the field of local habitation and name.’ This wonderfully stimulating volume deserves to be read by anyone interested contemporary poetry.

David Caddy

Environmental Arts Therapy

Environmental Arts Therapy

Ian Siddons Heginworth’s Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life (Spirit’s Rest Books 2009) explores the natural cycles of each month in relation to the Celtic, Christian, Norse and Greek mythological traditions of trees. It connects the human heart to woodland and cites therapeutic experience stemming from this historical outlook and association.  This development in drama therapy, part of a growing awareness of the therapeutic benefits of woodland, is well worth reading.


It offers a general guide to the forgotten connections between human emotions and woodland. It points to the possible therapeutic and healing qualities of extended contact with the natural cycles of woodland and develops an eco-psychology.


The emphasis on mythology as opposed to more practical experience of orientation, senses and communication perhaps overshadows the diverse and untapped potential for learning from trees and woodland life. Similarly the Book of Revelation’s comment that ‘The leaves of the trees are for the healing of nations’ is to be found in folk and Romany customs, legends, poems and songs. Whilst there are some practical and useful exercises, such as the making of mobiles, bridges, and lying down looking upwards as a technique for centering and grounding, I wanted more of the potential of woodland interaction to emerge to complement and supplement the mythological input. One thinks of the number of instances when people sit beneath a tree in order to solve problems, find peace or inspiration as a kind of base line of common sense association to realize that there is something tangible underlying Heginworth’s approach. A wood, like a city, carries within it old stories, history, botany, openings, wild and counter places and has a psychogeography that can be engaged.  A working wood as opposed to one that is left to its own devices and growth is similarly quite distinct and would presumably have different therapeutic potential.

David Caddy









Andrea Brady’s Cut From The Rushes

Andrea Brady’s Cut From The Rushes

John Wilkinson suggests that Andrea Brady is ‘one of the most impressive lyric poets writing now in English’ and goes on to salute her clear-eyed precise register of tone. This new sequence from Reality Street bears out the full accuracy of that judgement. When Brady’s critical examination of English Funerary Elegy in the Seventeenth Century was reviewed in The Use of English (Vol. 58, No. 2, Spring 2007) the reviewer referred to the adoption of poetic form as being ‘a necessary means of containing otherwise overwhelming feeling’ and the apposite nature of this comment to Brady’s own lyric voice was made clear early on in ‘Japanese Song’, from 20 Poems by Keston Sutherland & Andrea Brady (Barque Press 1995):


Your skin is white like the white

heel of a reed where it goes into the ground.


This new collection of poems, divided into two sections ‘Embrace’ and ‘Presenting’, reveals a maturing of that lyric tone and compassion threads its way through political anger to produce a voice of real distinction.


So the link collapses like an old story

after wearing into a hook then a

wire  Then powder drops out

of the air, outlining a man on the ground. We can go

on      splinters of horn nailed right into

green trees   where they fought against nature,

get bundles of light to tell

us where we went

wrong, downhill out of sight

past all minding.

(‘How much to have a go’)


Buy this book please from


Ian Brinton





Tears in the Fence 57 is out!

Tears in the Fence 57 is out!

Tears in the Fence 57 is out! It is available from and features poetry and fiction by Sean Street, Elizabeth Welsh, Lou Wilford, Pansy Maurer-Alvarez, Ben Hickman, Karoline von Günderrode, Lori Jakiela, Paul Kareem Tayyar, Rosie Jackson, Isobel Armstrong, Steven Earnshaw, Sarah Miller, Paul Matthews, Alexandra Sashe, Susmita Bhattacharya, Claire Crowther, Alistair Noon, Mélisande Fitzsimons, Gerard Greenway, Adam Fieled, Jennifer Compton, Alison Lock, Kevin McCann, Dorothy Lehane, Andrew Shelley, Melinda Lovell, Peter Robinson, Tess Joyce, Tim Allen, Jaime Robles, Noel King,  Geraldine Clarkson, Gavin Selerie, Steve Spence, Eleanor Perry and many others.


The critical section includes selections from Letters From Andrew Crozier to Ian Brinton, Andrew Duncan on Fiona Sampson’s Beyond The Lyric, Chrissy Williams on Chris McCabe, Michael Grant On Writing, Laurie Duggan on Geraldine Monk’s Cusp, Jeremy Hilton on David Caddy, John Welch, Robert Hampson on Ben Hickman, Sheila Hamilton on Melissa Lee-Houghton, Lindsey Holland, Frances Spurrier on The Best of British Poetry, Mandy Pannett on Rocco Scotellaro, Ian Brinton on Donald Davie, Jay Ramsay on Norman Jope, Pauline Stainer, Michael Grant on Anthony Barnett, Ric Hool on Mario Petrucci, Richard Humphreys on Clive Wilmer, Ben Hickman on Wide Range Chapbooks, and regular columnists David Caddy, Rosie Jackson, Anthony Barnett and Ian Brinton.





Allen Fisher in Lambeth

Allen Fisher in Lambeth

Andrew Duncan’s comments on the back of this new book from Shearsman are inviting:


‘The first interview dates from 1973. I took the decision to collect old interviews rather than make an all-new book. I am fascinated by the idea of a very long base line, records of one person’s views over 30 years, change as part of the object recorded.


This is indeed a fascinating compilation of interviews and statements beginning with a conversation with Eric Mottram at the ICA in 1973 where the focus of the event was avant-garde magazines and self-publishing. There is an interview for Alembic (January 1976) conducted by Peter Barry and Ken Edwards and one for Angel Exhaust from 1987. Talking to Victoria Sheppard in 2003 Fisher refers to Spanner magazine that he had been running since 1974 as well as the Keith Tuma led UK poetry list run from Miami Ohio. Andrew Duncan’s own interviews with Allen Fisher form a significant part of this exciting volume and the more I read the more I came to realise how much of an informative background the whole book has to offer. If you want to know more about the fabric of contemporary poetry then settle down with these conversations.


‘A Note on Notes’: in conversation with Duncan in 2005 Allen Fisher says that he likes the ‘instance that Prynne put difficult notes in the back of Aristeas’. Andrew comments ‘Only that one time. And ‘A Note on Metals’’. The next response suggests an intriguing ouverture into Prynne’s work: ‘I never really got to a full conversation with him about that, but I have spoken to him about it. And I can see why. It’s a kind of almost like an alchemical reason for not saying what the resources are. So that someone can tease them out and get the pleasure of doing that, maybe.’


With that comment in mind I recalled Anthony Mellors telling me that a line from ‘Of Movement Towards a Natural Place’ [Wound Response, Street Editions 1974] was a quotation from Dickens’s Great Expectations where the character of the false ‘gentleman’ Compeyson is seen on the marshes and ‘upon his lips curious white flakes, like thin snow.’ And in Sub Songs [Barque Press 2010] the opening poem, ‘As Mouth Blindness’, takes us to the Lear who can say, of his daughter Cordelia, ‘her voice was ever low.’


The Marvels of Lambeth, Interviews & Statements by Allen Fisher can be purchased from Shearsman (


Ian Brinton

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